THE Modi government has decided to directly administer Jammu & Kashmir through governor’s rule. This is the outcome of the BJP’s withdrawal from the coalition government headed by Mehbooba Mufti.
Why has the BJP taken this step after more than three years of the coalition government? That the coalition government has collapsed is not a surprise, as from the start, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the BJP who have nothing in common, but, being on opposite sides of the political spectrum, came together to form the government after the assembly elections.
At that time, the PDP leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had rationalised that it would help to unify the state as BJP represented the Hindu-dominated Jammu and the PDP had the maximum number of seats in the Kashmir Valley. But this opportunist step angered the people in the Valley. Everyone knew that it was the BJP which, as the ruling party at the centre, would call the shots in the state government especially in a situation where the central security forces are deployed in large numbers.
The CPI(M) had warned that this opportunist coalition government would only heighten the alienation of the people of the Kashmir Valley and aggravate the communal divide between the two regions – Jammu and Kashmir.
Now, when governor’s rule has been imposed, the situation in the Valley has never been as bad as it is at present. The bulk of the people, especially the youth, are not only alienated but do not want to have any truck with India. The reason for this lies squarely with the brutal repressive policy pursued by the central government and by its dictates to the state government. After the killing of the Hizbul militant Burhan Wani in July 2016, there was a mass upsurge in the Valley. The security forces used pellet guns to suppress the protests. The pellets fired by the guns saw more than 500 young men and women either being blinded, or, their vision partially impaired.
The Modi government consistently refused to initiate a political dialogue with all the political forces, including the separatist leadership of the Hurriyat.
All this has resulted in hundreds of young men joining the militants. In the last year, there were more locally recruited militants than those who had infiltrated into Kashmir from across the border.
The period since mid-2016 has seen a steady escalation in violence which has led to more extremist attacks and counter-insurgency operations by the security forces. The year 2017 was the worst in terms of casualties in recent years – 40 civilians died, while 80 security personnel and 213 militants were killed. Among the latter, there would be quite a few “civilian” stone pelters and protestors.
Despite the much vaunted “surgical strikes” across the Line of Control in September 2016, the scale of infiltration from across the border increased sharply. There has been large-scale violation of the cease-fire through cross-border shelling and firings leading to civilian casualties on both sides.
The BJP ministers and the BJP-RSS in Jammu kept up a steady campaign to pit the people of Jammu against the Valley and to create a communal polarisation. The growth of Islamist extremism in the Valley as a result was utilised by it to further step up repression.
The net result of such a divisive policy was seen when an eight-year old Muslim girl was gang-raped and brutally killed in Kathua in Jammu. Shockingly, two BJP ministers and other leaders joined in the protest against the arrest of those accused of this heinous crime. The nationwide outrage that followed forced the BJP to remove these two ministers from the cabinet. But the damage was done.
BJP decision to bring down the government is a conscious political move keeping in mind the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections in 2019. The BJP is going to target the Kashmiris as anti-national and harbourers of terrorists. It has already accused the PDP-led government of having failed to tackle terrorism.
The issue of Kashmir is necessary for the BJP for its political platform for the Lok Sabha elections in the whole country. It wants to project a communal campaign that while it has relentlessly sought to suppress “terrorism” and protect national security, it was thwarted in this effort by the PDP and the Kashmiri Muslims who are soft on terrorism and Pakistan. It will advocate the scrapping of Article 370 of the constitution with renewed vigour.
The reality, however, is that the BJP has done the most damage to national unity and national security by alienating the Kashmiri people as a whole and driving hundreds of youth to militancy and taking up the gun. The killing of the highly respected editor Shujaat Bukhari is an ominous portent. All told, the Modi government’s Kashmir policy has been a disastrous failure.
For the BJP, Kashmir is expendable, for the larger design of mobilising Hindu sentiments around the country.
The BJP cannot be allowed to sacrifice the Kashmiri people for its narrow sectarian interests. All the democratic and secular forces must unitedly demand that political dialogue with all shades of opinion in the state of Jammu & Kashmir is the way forward. For this, the democratic rights of the people have to be safeguarded and not become the victim of State repression. A campaign to expose the divisive game of the BJP in Jammu and Kashmir must be conducted all over the country.
(June 27, 2018)